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Corsets, cages and embowered women in contemporary Victoriana on film

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The article addresses the problem of representing Victorian female subjectivity in contemporary films set in the nineteenth century - including both film adaptations of Victorian classics (such as Campion's Portrait of a Lady [1996]) and examples of contemporary Victoriana (such as Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge! [2001], Burton's Sweeney Todd [2007] and the animated The Corpse Bride [2005], and Campion's The Piano [1993]). It focuses on the use of the corset and the practice of tight-lacing as visual and ideological shorthand in filmic representations of repressed Victorian female subjectivity. The stress of the analysis is on the recurring glorified image of the corseted woman, usually juxtaposed to a caged bird, placed inside cage-like interiors. Tracing the history of these images to the nineteenth-century representation of women in fine art, the article investigates the significance of these images for interpretations of female agency in contemporary Victoriana.

Keywords: Victoriana/Victorian woman; cage; corset; film; subjectivity; tight-lacing

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: University of Split

Publication date: January 1, 2011

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  • Film, Fashion & Consumption is a peer-reviewed journal designed to provide an arena for the discussion of research, methods and practice within and between the fields of film, fashion, design, history, art history and heritage. The journal seeks to stimulate ongoing research on these topics and to attract contributions not only from scholars researching in these areas but also from practitioners, who are traditionally excluded from academic debate. The journal thus aims to unite and enlarge a community of researchers and practitioners in film, fashion, consumption and related fields, whilst also introducing a wider audience to new work, particularly to interdisciplinary research which looks at the intersections between film, fashion and consumption.
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